Vridar has moved

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 7:43 am

Hi Everyone,

Vridar is now moving to Vridar.org. You will need to update links and subscriptions.

Further comments on posts can be made only on the new Vridar site. All posts and earlier comments can be found there.

The Vridar blog was deactivated by its hosting company, WordPress.com, in response to my reactivation of a post that I did not realize had been taken down as a result of a reader’s complaint. I have since issued a formal counter-claim and WordPress.com has responded by contacting me to say they have reinstated this blog minus the post in dispute. That post will remain inactive pending a further response from the claimant within 14 days.

For those who are interested in understanding the adventurous details of the jowls and whats behind all this, with all its adventure, sex and gore, there is the short version by Tim Widowfield (Rising from the Ashes) and my subsequent post (What Happened to Vridar).

We have Tim to thank for getting up the new site for Vridar so quickly. Now that we have seen how insecure a controversial blog is on WordPress.com we are moving to where we have more control of our own work.

We really appreciate the fantastic support expressed by so many of our readers — including and especially from some of those with whom we have had strong disagreements.



—- One more thing:  It may look odd that we are still using “WordPress” on the new site after what I have just said. Tim explains why we are still using the WordPress open source software on the new site.




Scholar Joel Explains Nuance

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim Widowfield @ 11:48 am

If you haven’t had a chance to catch Joel Watts’ response to my previous post on his HuffPo hot mess, by all means go take a look. It’s the post with a color photo of the lovely Cecilia Bartoli near the top of the page and a black-and-white self portrait of Joel farther down.

To the charge of reckless disregard for intelligible language, Joel pleads not guilty by reason of “nuance,” and deflects the criticism back at me, writing:

. . . in spite of not needing to answer imbeciles, I wante [sic] to speak to the use of several of these phrases — phrases that cannot be googled.

If Joel or anyone else did not understand me, I regret that I wasn’t clearer. When I read works by talented authors, and I encounter an odd turn of phrase, I endeavor to grasp the meaning. Consider the oft-misquoted line (and title!) from Dylan Thomas: “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Many people will insist on turning the word “gentle” into an adverb. But the master poet used an adjective. Why did he do that? It’s worth digging into, but only because we know that Dylan Thomas was a great writer — an artist, not an oaf hiding behind the fig leaf of “nuance.”



Journey Free: education about religious harm and resources for recovery

Filed under: Uncategorized,Winell: Leaving the Fold — Neil Godfrey @ 1:21 pm

Journey-Free Facebook Page

From the page:

The Journey Free team is a group working to provide education about religious harm and resources for recovering from the effects of dogmatic religious indoctrination. Our office is based in the San Francisco Bay Area where Dr. Marlene Winell, our director, has a consulting practice; most of Journey Free’s recovery retreats are held in this region too.

Dr. Winell wrote the leading self-help book on recovering from religious harm after working in and researching the topic for more then 20 years. In 2011, she named Religious Trauma Syndrome or RTS a form of chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or “C-PTSD.” (more…)


Tom Verenna Debates James McGrath

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 7:58 am

Recently I was playing with the time capsule button of WordPress and managed to accidentally relocate an old July 2010 post to today. Since trying to undo and relocate events in time is forbidden by the Time Lords of the universe I quickly deleted it. But a few quick ones did see it and commented favourably — so here it is again:

From http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/jamesfmcgrath?v=wall story_fbid=573473118322

Tom Verenna

Thanks for this James. I’m not certain I really understand your thought exercise though. I could say the same thing about a number of figures from historiographical works which we no longer believe to be historically credible (Lycurgus the Spartan, again, is a good example). But why stop at just people? How many events which we find in historical treatises from the past make little or no historical sense, but for which we cannot prove nor disprove? Exactly how much of those speeches, which make up 24% of Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian war did he really make up and for how much might we say he had documents handy to copy, or even alter slightly?

The problem with saying, “Well we come to an impasse, so let’s break the impasse by the mere fact that he *might* have existed, possibly…” which is really what this comes down to, doesn’t it? I mean, if we’re just going to make the leap from the more honest position “I don’t know” to “it must have happened,” why should we stop making such logical leaps? Why not just say that, well, no history is repeatable, so let’s just say that everything happened because, after all, there is attestation for it. And where we have conflicting accounts of those things, we should still accept them as historical, but just accept the more plausible one as historical. That’s what all historians should do, right? I hope you haven’t been agreeing this whole time–because this is not what historians should be doing.

Historians are tasked with securing the memories of society’s past. If we were to just accept possibilities as fact, then we are doing society an injustice. Imagine if such testimony was given at a trial hearing? “Well, we have no evidence the defendant wasn’t at the place the crime occurred, so why not?” If you feel that is stretching, you might say that “well we have testimony he might have been there.” But if you examine that testimony, is it really admissible? Are the sources trustworthy? I do not think so. Any evidence of this caliber presented at a criminal hearing would be thrown out. Simply put, I believe the most honest answer is not positive, but agnostic. In that regard, we should never accept a positive until we have adequate reason behind it; otherwise, where would one stop at accepting things without evidence? Given your hypothetical thought experiment, there would be no positive evidence (by your own admission). Likewise, we have no positive evidence of elves, fairies, witches, or dragons–but don’t be so quick to scoff. At least 50% of Icelanders believe in elves yet and at one time a large part of the world believed in fairies, dragons, and witches (so much that they burned innocent people because of it). Do you see why I find your thought experiment a little backwards?

Yesterday at 8:37am ·

James McGrath

Tom, I confess I don’t really understand your objection. There is a lot that is uncertain, and mainstream historians recognize this. No mainstream historian, including those from Iceland, can affirm that Jesus did miracles and expect to be taken seriously within the context of academic historical study. And I’m not suggesting that we argue “No one says Jesus didn’t exist, therefore he existed.” Your caricature (if it is not in fact a deliberate attempt at misrepresentation) doesn’t seem to bear much resemblance to what I or any mainstream scholar investigating the historical Jesus argues.

Yesterday at 9:06am ·

Tom Verenna

James, you do realize I’m talking about your recent blog, not your scholarship, right? (more…)


And inspiring news from another Muslim nation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 10:28 pm
Tags: , ,

Since a good number of Westerners have been led to fear Muslims as a whole partly because of the publicizing of violent events in Bangladesh, it is worth drawing attention to the actions of the overwhelming majority of an even larger Muslim nation.

Courageous Pakistani Muslims have been defiantly standing up against the murderous Taliban terrorists, risking their lives for the sake of democratic institutions and voting in democratic elections in their country.

About half of the 70,000 polling stations have been declared at risk of attack from Taliban who have warned Pakistanis to boycott the election. It hasn’t stopped voters from turning out to support the democratic process.

Read the news article from Michael Edwards and watch the video interview. It’s inspiring and encouraging news.

Pakistanis brave Taliban threats to cast their votes (more…)


Losing our sense of the tragic and the human bond

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 9:04 pm

What depresses me most about debates like the recent discussion over Western attitudes towards Muslims is the black and white view so many people have. “If you disagree with us you can only be wrong and not worth listening to.” “I can’t hear you because you are arguing against something I strongly believe and the way I view the world.”

Ideologically driven closed-mindedness can be found on both sides, of course. But bloody hell, what’s wrong with trying to maintain a sense of humanity and tragedy in the whole discussion? We are all human and talking about the fate of other humans, and there is a strong tragic streak running through the whole human condition on this stage.

Someone here recently said he found Muslims are no different from us in their everyday concerns. That such a statement was thought worth pointing out (and it is!) speaks volumes for how semi-barbaric much of the discussion has become.

There are anti-war activists who have sons and daughters on willing active service (volunteers) in Afghanistan and Iraq. In a good number of those I have reason to believe they are very close to their children despite ideological (or generation) differences.

There are Muslim parents who will mourn to their graves their loss of a son or daughter to a suicide-bombing recruiter and families of those who lost loved ones in 9/11 who have visited some of those Muslims.

It would be good to keep all those sorts of families in mind when engaging with supporters of one side or the other.

The world is not black and white. There is no iron curtain or tentacle-extending behemoth. Except in our fears. There is evil that needs to be faced. Sometimes that means having the courage to be sure we ourselves are not the proverbial evil we have projected onto others. Tragedy needs a catharsis, or it truly will become unbearable.


The Myth of Disinterested Scholarly Research

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 8:42 pm

sickwomanI can understand laypersons indignantly jumping to the defence of their favourite biblical or historical Jesus researcher whenever the suggestion arises that any scholar inevitably succumbs to ideological and career pressures. When scholars themselves proclaim their pureness of heart disinterested approach to their research, however, we are witnessing the problem of self-deception.

Tonight I was listening to an interview with a health researcher who was explaining that even in the field of health researchers were constantly pressured — and even taught the skills to do this — to sex up their research findings for regular publications. Researchers are compelled to publish and publish frequently to survive, and that means finding ways to dress up what once would have been regarded as rubbish into something that has the appearance of worth. That is, peer reviewed health journals are in the business of making money so they do publish what will sell well. See and listen to the segment of The Media Report: The Pitfalls of Health News, for the details of how this is possible.

If that sort of pressure is influencing what practitioners of one of the “hard sciences” write, can we really expect academics in biblical studies to be free from similar pressures? And that’s just the pressure of the daily business of surviving in one’s job. We haven’t even touched on ideology, yet. (Although ideology certainly is a factor in what academic journal publishers know is necessary for staying in the reputation business.)


Recently I was pulled up on the second page of the Preface to Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity where Daniel Boyarin writes:

On one occasion, when I had delivered a lecture based on some of the work below on the Gospel of John, a very upset undergraduate arose from the audience to inquire: Who are you and why are you trying to take our Gospel away from us?

On another occasion, a group of Christian ministers asked me why I was not a Jew for Jesus (not in an effort to convert me to that movement but rather to understand what it is that makes me not one).

At still another time, in Jerusalem on one memorable occasion, I was asked explicitly by the organizer of a conference, Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein, to reflect on the implications of this work for the present and future.

On all of those occasions, I disengaged from the question that was being asked, falling on the last resort of the scholarly scoundrel: “I’m just trying to figure out what really happened!” (Border Lines, p. x, my formatting and emphasis) (more…)


That chart of mythical and historical persons — with explanations

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 7:53 pm

I have added to my table some quick off-the-top-of-my-head references to the sources I was thinking of when I constructed my original table (see previous post). Some people on Jim McGrath’s site have chosen not to register any problems with my chart here, but have opted for a giggle-and-poke session on Jimmy’s blog and Doctor James McGrath even said my entries on the chart I myself devised were “arbitrary”. But I think everyone who knows the history of this Explodingourcakemix scholar knows he knows nothing outside a few set texts in theology classes, some Mandean texts that need translating, and all the Dr Who scripts. Here in this post I add to my original chart some quick references to the sources that were on my mind at the time I designed it.

Some people have even challenged me for my entries and asked what I would assign for this or that other historical person. In doing so they have missed the point entirely. Who cares what I enter into the table? If I made some mistakes, then fine, tell me and I’ll change my choices. What matters is what most people who know anything about the historical sources for any supposed historical person choose to enter. It’s not a subjective exercise. Choices of Yes or No etc are open to discussion and correction.

Gosh, some people seem to think that “mythicists” are just like “historicists” — that they have some ideological or professional interest to defend and are prepared to construct bogus charts with “arbitrary” entries somehow thinking that everyone will be fooled. :-(

Here is the chart again, along with my introductory explanation, and some names added to indicate the sources that guided my initial decisions.



Vridar Blog 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 11:11 am

WordPress have collated and forwarded me these stats for the past year:

450,000 views in 2012. This was up from 280,000 in 2011. The shift began with posts on Paul-Louis Couchoud and responses to James McGrath’s vacuous efforts to “review” Earl Doherty’s Jesus: Neither God Nor Man, but a new plateau was established with posts on various responses to Bart Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist?, in particular Earl Doherty’s chapter by chapter reviews. These have been collated and edited into a new ebook.

Most popular posts:

The busiest day last year was April 27th when I posted Carrier versus Ehrman: Reflections — 2,618 views on that day.

Thanks everyone for commenting or just quietly lurking. Glad to be able to write posts others find of interest.




Ouch! It’s True!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 8:07 pm

While catching up with other blogs I came across this comment in a post by Ian at Irreducable Complexity that jolted me. It was written by Sabio Lantz who has sometimes left a comment here:

He wrote here:

I actually enjoy Neil Godfrey’s writings sometimes — but it is usually beyond my pay grade – as is Ian’s stuff when he is not kind! :-) But usually Ian is very kind and keeps stuff simple for us lay folks.

Ouch. That smarts a little because it’s true. When I started this blog I was always sure to keep my posts clear. I kept foremost in mind how I had to struggle when first reading esoteric terms like “Q” and “redaction criticism” and “oral tradition” and “intertextuality” and “Messianic Secret” etcetera etcetra to get my head around what the writers were talking about. (more…)


Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz dies

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 10:50 am

This is terribly sad. Aaron’s work has been central to what my own job is all about and what even this blog is in some ways about.




A mythicist publishing in a peer-reviewed journal?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 5:07 pm

According to most scholars with anti-mythicist viscera I have come across, the very idea of a mythicist publishing in a scholarly peer-reviewed journal is not supposed to be possible. So it is heartening to see a mythicist’s publication in a pay-wall journal (you can’t read it unless you pay the publisher — and it doesn’t matter if you were one of those who contributed financially to Richard Carrier’s research grant) and not only that, but one that is noticed and publicized by a much wider constituency — Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True blog.

At least evolutionist Jerry Coyne himself is able to outline some of the pertinent points related to this argument. Richard Carrier himself blogs to point to evidence he did not cite in his article.

I’d be even more gobsmacked if I ever learn that Carrier at any point acknowledges any debt whatsoever to Earl Doherty for any point at all in his case about supposed Christian references in Josephus. (more…)


‘Is This Not the Carpenter?’ review (chapter 11 continued)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 9:33 pm

carpenterThis post continues my reading and thoughts on chapter 11 of ‘Is This Not the Carpenter? : The Question of the Historicity of the Figure of Jesus. This volume, as I understand it, was published in the hope of introducing the question of the historicity of Jesus to a scholarly audience by means of articles written by scholarly peers. That is, it was meant to be a scholarly re-opening of the question of Jesus’ historicity from among the respected scholarly ranks of biblical scholars as opposed to recent serious authors outside the guild of New Testament academia (e.g. Doherty, Wells, Ellegård, Zindler). The result is a mixed one, in my opinion. Some chapters are excellent; too many are poorly edited or scantily proof-read though with some gold nuggets nonetheless; at least one struck me as quite irrelevant to the question of Jesus’ historicity; another is mundanely argued but worthy as a testimony to the current conventional wisdom; and one is confused with respect to definitions and coherence. Additional chapters (including chapter 11 discussed here) touch obliquely on the question of historicity. I wonder if these chapters could have been made more relevant by a few touch-ups to the question of methodology. Or did the editors think that a step too far at this stage? (Maybe I’m biased, but methodology — as it relates to the question of the historicity of Jesus — seems to be more often discussed head-on here on this blog than in any other avenue I am aware of.)

But till then, here are some more of the interesting observations of Ingrid Hjelm. Continuing from my earlier post:

Up to this point we have seen Luke following the less royally-oriented David of 2 Samuel and placing his messianic Jesus in the line of the David of 1 Chronicles who is preeminently a founder of the Mosaic cult in Jerusalem. That is, as in 1 Chronicles, Luke’s David is a prophet like Moses and this is the David whose throne Jesus is given.

I attempt here to outline the way Hjelm interprets the David in 1 Chronicles as a Moses redivivus, even as a prophet like Moses, in contrast to his portrayal in 1-2 Samuel, and to review other subtle allusions to the Scriptures Luke weaves into the themes, structure and content of his Gospel. (more…)


Global Report on Discrimination Against Humanists, Atheists and the Nonreligious

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 6:35 am

IHEU-freedom-report-cover_0From the International Humanist and Ethical Union website: New global report on discrimination against the nonreligious

From the site:

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has produced the first report focusing on how countries around the world discriminate against non-religious people. Freedom of Thought 2012: A Global Report on Discrimination Against Humanists, Atheists and the Non-religious has been published to mark Human Rights Day, Monday 10 December.

Freedom of Thought 2012 covers laws affecting freedom of conscience in 60 countries and lists numerous individual cases where atheists have been prosecuted for their beliefs in 2012. It reports on laws that deny atheists’ right to exist, curtail their freedom of belief and expression, revoke their right to citizenship, restrict their right to marry, obstruct their access to public education, prohibit them from holding public office, prevent them from working for the state, criminalize their criticism of religion, and execute them for leaving the religion of their parents.

From InformationClearingHouse, citing RT, (more…)


More SBL Fallout from René Salm’s paper

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 6:59 am
Slightly revised R.S's. parenthesis [That's illogical . . . facts unfettered], 6:00 am, 4th December, 2012

NOTE: See Rene’s comment #5  below, titled “Clarification by Dr Avalos” for corrections to some of the detail in this post: 

René Salm has posted the following:

I discovered Ehrman’s blog yesterday (http://ehrmanblog.org/rene-salm-at-the-society-of-biblical-literature-meeting/) and found that he and his readers are “outraged” at my being invited to SBL. He writes the following (my comments and emphases added):


Rene Salm at the Society of Biblical Literature Meeting

Several people have sent me private emails asking why René Salm was put on the program at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting, given the fact that he is not a scholar and has no credentials in the field [Credentials are evidently indispensable evidence of scholarship. . .–RS].   For those of you who don’t know, Salm has written a book claiming that Nazareth did not exist in the first century, so that Jesus couldn’t be there.  He argues this in part because he doesn’t think Jesus existed and so wants to discredit the Gospel stories by saying the Christian authors made the whole thing up.  [The Nazareth myth stands on its own. Second guesses on why I wrote the book are irrelevant and often wrong.]

Several scholars (well, everyone who mentioned it to me) were outraged that Salm was allowed to be on the program.  This meeting is of a learned society and is to be for scholars with established expertise.  It is not to be a venue for people without qualifications to spout their wild theories.  Salm claims that those who oppose him have a theological or religious bias against his views, but this simply is not true.  EVERYONE who is an expert opposes his views – Jewish, Christian, agnostic, or other.   There is not a single archaeologist of ancient Israel that gives him the least credit.  [That’s because they know on which side their bread is buttered.] That doesn’t make him wrong.  But it does mean that if he wants to argue that every real scholar is in error, he should get some credentials first. [That’s illogical. Because all the credentialed archaeologists have thus far been wrong, therefore I also should get credentials? Presumably in archaeology? Everybody is entitled to an opinion, both the credentialed and the non-credentialed. The difference is that the credentialed academic has one hand on the facts and one hand on a paycheck, while the non-credentialed layperson is free to pursue the facts unfettered.]
In any event, I thought it might be worthwhile to reprint here what I say about Salm’s book in my book Did Jesus Exist? Apologies for those who have read this already. I have removed the footnotes here, but you can find them in the original. . .


This was followed by Ehrman’s “part 2” on me and the SBL. I don’t feel comfortable paying money to his blog and voicing my opinion there, and may simply react on my own MP blog. Of course, my lack of pertinent credentials is a pretext. The tradition would surely be just as opposed to me if I actually had a PhD. My goodness, I think it would be even more upset!

Another curiosity: Ehrman is himself  a member of the SBL “Metacriticism of Biblical Studies” unit. [Rene Salm has since corrected this — see Comment #5 below] He’s known about my upcoming talk for a long time, as Avalos hashed out the SBL roster of presentations via emails to the whole list (about two dozen members) over the last twelve months. It’s curious to me that Ehrman did not say something when it could have made a difference, but waited until after the fact to voice his displeasure and to raise the issue of some SBL impropriety.

FYI, here are the members of the Metacriticism of Biblical Scholarship section from their email addresses:

R. Raphael
kenneth atkinson
alex botta
kurt noll
f. fzindler
thomas thompson
Philippe Wajdenbaum
bart ehrman
robert price
Willi Braun
rene salm
c martin
elliott still
b c landau

The Metacriticism section is not a fully formed “unit” but is in its first year of trial status by SBL. [Rene Salm has since corrected this — see Comment #5 below] Complaints from scholars of Ehrman’s stature could well scuttle this auspicious but fledgling ship. . . I plan to contact Avalos on this shortly. [See comment #5 below for corrections made since that contact with Dr Avalos.]

If I’m banned for lack of credentials it means little to me, as I have no plans to speak there again. But I think the whole SBL would have to formulate a new policy because right now any member (credentialed or not) can give a paper as along as s/he’s invited by a “program unit.” Nevertheless, this is a discussion that needs to happen. Scholars should ask themselves why a lot of good work is currently being done outside the guild (Price, Doherty, Zindler, myself, etc.) and a lot of bad work inside of it. (more…)


Carrier on Brodie and Rene Salm, at SBL, on Nazareth, Pious Fraud, James McGrath and others

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 9:09 am

Richard Carrier has posted a review of Thomas L. Brodie’s Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery. It is here on the freethought blog. I will be posting more of my own thoughts on the book in future posts here. While I agree with much of Carrier’s assessment I do hold back from some of his more “jaded” (his term) expressions: Of course the book is not written as an argument to prove Jesus never existed. It is, as Carrier rightly notes (though I think he loses some balance here in overstressing what the book is not) an autobiographical journey of how Brodie came to conclude Jesus did not exist. While it is certainly logically valid to insist that it is not valid to conclude that Jesus did not exist if all one has is evidence that Jesus was a literary character, but at the same time, in the absence of positive evidence for Jesus’ historicity, it is certainly valid to conclude that there is no reason to accept Jesus as a historical figure. If the only extant evidence is literary metaphor or a theological concept then it is valid to conclude that Jesus was a literary metaphor until other evidence comes along to the contrary. (Carrier will possibly object here by pointing to Paul’s letters, but this is a discussion I will have to leave for another time.)

I do agree with Carrier that Brodie does make some excellent points on the scholarship that has attempted to find historicity in oral tradition, and I have posted in depth on that aspect of Brodie’s book.

René Salm has posted the paper he delivered at the SBL conference recently. I like the way he nails from the outset common dismissals of his thesis that Nazareth did not exist in the time of Jesus (my emphasis):

Not being an archaeologist myself, I am often asked: “How can you date evidence, Mr. Salm?” or: “How can you presume to correct professional archaeologists?” or: “How can you have any opinion on these matters?” However, there is a misunderstanding inherent in these questions, for I have never dated anything at all. I have simply identified the relevant archaeological experts and quoted their published datings: Hans-Peter Kuhnen on kokhim tombs, Varda Sussman on bow-spouted oil lamps, Roland Deines on Jewish stone vessels, Amos Kloner on circular blocking stones, and so on. The case regarding Nazareth does not rest on my opinion at all. Anyone who disagrees with The Myth of Nazareth is not disagreeing with me but is taking issue with the leading archaeological experts in the world. As we shall see, this is fatal for traditional conclusions regarding Nazareth.

and on those popular reports of the house and bath supposedly from Jesus’ time: (more…)


Revival Fellowship churches

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 7:05 am

I’m interested in learning more about the Revival Fellowship churches. If anyone knows of any reliable sources of information its governance model, history, strategies and methods of promotion, conversion methods, personal experiences, please do respond here or, if you’d prefer, email me directly at neilgodfrey1 [AT] gmailDOTcom

Many thanks,


Some interesting book titles

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 9:34 pm

Funny things sometimes happen browsing the web. In searching for what others were saying about a book highly recommended to me as a solid case for astrotheology (I found that the book makes no case at all — no, it’s not by any author I have reviewed on this blog before) I stumbled into a rather suspect discussion group whose moderators have made recent notorious appearances here. Along with some highly dubious titles they include some works that look like real gems:

Crucifixion: In the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross by Martin Hengel. This includes an interesting discussion of Prometheus and an ancient use of the technical term for crucifixion. (more…)


Falling out

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 7:40 am

Recently anyone would think that I have come out and “attacked” and “abused” Acharya S / D. M. Murdock and others when all I have done is allow some discussion in which I insisted that the standard rules of evidence be foundational for conclusions and said that methods that do not follow such standard rules are unscientific.

I have over the years avoided addressing the works of Acharya S / D. M. Murdock for no reason other than that I have never spent much time reading any of them and have had no personal interest in her perspective on things. From time to time someone supporting her views has commented on this blog and I have never had a problem with that. (What I have objected to is when anyone repeatedly comments in a way that indicates they are regularly attempting to evangelize for some particular belief — mostly these are Christian fundamentalists or mystics of some sort. Once I realize what is going on I usually put a stop to their comments.)

D. M. Murdock herself has posted comments on this blog at least three times:

https://vridar.wordpress.com/2006/11/21/the-jesus-puzzle-did-christianity-begin-with-a-mythical-christ-early-doherty-canadian-humanists-1999-review/#comment-5037 — in response I purchased her book Fingerprints of Christ and have browsed through much of it a few times, but I have not seen anything in it to capture my interest enough to write about. I have no problems with its content. It is okay — nothing new from my perspective, I would not condemn it. There are many basic works on mythicism that have little interest for me mainly because I am so familiar with the sorts of things they say and I have moved on from such things. That’s not to say they would not be of interest to others, of course.


I have never banned Murdock’s comments. I have several times expressed my outrage over the abusive insults so many others have directed at Murdock/Acharya and have never indulged in such abuse against her myself. Tim has had the same approach — deploring the way many others have spoken of her with contempt. I have twice expressed my own discomfort with Richard Carrier’s insulting language directed not only at Acharya but others, too. I do not agree with his rationales for it and do not engage in his sort of personally insulting language here. I do not agree with some of Carrier’s efforts to shut down discussions through insult. It is important to provide rational and clear responses to irrational and muddled ideas.

I accepted Acharya’s Facebook invitation to be added as a Facebook friend — though I scarcely ever use Facebook at all for quite some time now. My blog posts, someone told me, are linked there, but that’s all. (She has since removed herself from that status.) I have recently a few times had occasion to speak critically of some of her approaches to things where I have felt it appropriate to do so — but that is not personal abuse.

I was recently prepared to engage Robert Tulip and others in discussion about astrotheology, and I was at some pains to reassure him that my initial scepticism had nothing to do with prejudice. For heaven’s sake, I have been through enough to not be embarrassed or prejudiced against about holding a minority viewpoint. But I have also been through enough to know just how easily I can be wrong about so much. So what is so very important to me is understanding how valid logic works, how we know what we do and how we justify the conclusions we draw from our information. I am never content to rely on secondary sources but always want to understand the primary material any knowledge is based upon before committing myself in discussions such as the ones I address here. I have mentioned in my biographical notes elsewhere the point at which I realized what it was going to mean to attempt as far as I could the path of intellectual honesty.

Now Murdock’s supporters are pointing to one period of my past life to paint me as an ongoing cultist in my thought patterns. They have obviously missed the rest of my biographical details in my “About Vridar” page and also in my recent post, “A Little Biographical Footnote“. It is because of lessons I have learned from my past experience in a cult that I can smell certain kinds of fallacious arguments a mile off.

So yes, method of argument is important to me. How we justify the conclusions we draw is important — more so or at least as important as the conclusions themselves.

I do not rely on secondary literature. I use secondary literature to gain access to new ways of understanding our sources, and that’s why my library and reading has become so vast. One book will often lead me to read half a dozen other books. And I will be studying the primary sources, too, and studies made about them. So when Murdock or others say a certain book is “the definitive” or “must read” answer to a question, I generally do not agree. I will read what others have to say about it — scholarly reviews — as well as read carefully what the author has to say, and I will usually find much more qualifications by the author than found among some over-enthusiastic readers.

So it is with disappointment that I find the following remarks now being spread about me on Acharya/Murdock’s discussion board: (more…)


Christ’s Ventriloquists

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 8:55 am

Many of us may be interested in David Hamilton’s recent post of a list of “lessons learned” from his reading of Eric Zuesse’s Christ’s Ventriloquists: The Event that Created Christianity.

This work argues Paul’s letter to Galatians effectively marks the birth of Christianity. [Eric Zuesse has since commented that I am flat wrong here — see his comment below. 12:00 pm]

I had a different perspective on the book that I may discuss some time here, but till then have a look and a think about David’s views.

One note from David:

I found Eric’s methodology to be interesting, but not quite convincing. He is onto one thing though: even scholars who claim to not be captured by confessional interests still do not question all of their assumptions, such as the assumption that Paul was (or was not) honest.

Another work by Seuss


Why were Jesus’ miracles told “plainly” in the Bible but “fancifully” in the Apocryphal Gospels?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 7:41 pm
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One common argument of Christian apologists — both lay and scholarly — in favour of the Gospel accounts being based on “authentic” historical traditions and written by authors motivated by, or limited to, telling “the truth” as they understood it, is that the miracles of Jesus are told “plainly”, “matter-of-factly”, without any garish flourish. Miracles of Jesus in the much later “apocryphal gospels”, on the other hand, are rightly said to be told quite differently and with much embellishment that serves to impress readers with the wonder and awesomeness of Jesus’ power.

The difference, we are often told, is testimony to the historical basis of the Gospel record.

I used to respond to this challenge with a dot-point list of miracle types. What? Are you really suggesting that walking on water or stilling a storm or rising from the dead are not “fanciful” acts?

But I was trying to kid myself to some extent. Of course they are fanciful, but being fanciful in that sense is the very definition of a miracle, however it is told.

The point the apologist makes is not that miracles are indeed miraculous, but that the Bible relates them most simply and matter-of-factly quite unlike the presentations of miracles we read in the apocryphal gospels.

Read the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and one quickly comes face to face with an infant from a horror movie. A child strikes mockers dead on the spot for mocking. His art-work steps out into reality and disbelievers are struck dead or blinded with no thought of asking questions later.

And the Gospel of Peter knows how to narrate a resurrection. None of this “Joseph sealed the tomb and they all went off to keep the sabbath and by the time Sunday-morning came around . . . .”. Nope. Let’s have Jesus emerge from the tomb with guards being awakened and rushing to call their commander to witness the spectacle, and great angels descending and re-ascending with their charge fastened between them and his head exalted through the clouds, all accompanied by a great voice from heaven and responses from below . . . . Now that’s a resurrection scene!

There is a difference in tone between the miracles of Jesus in the canonical gospels and those found in their apocryphal counterparts.

The apologist — even the scholarly one as I mentioned above — jumps on this difference as evidence that the “plain and simple” narration of the gospels is evidence of intent to convey downright facts.

Unfortunately, this conclusion is evidence of nothing more profound than the propensity of the faithful to fall into the fallacy of “the false dichotomy“. (more…)


All this Muslim business

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 9:33 am
Tags: , , ,

Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne, and no doubt many other atheists have landed especially hard blows against the Muslim religion recently, prompted specifically by the recent wave of deadly protests over the trailer for the film Innocence of Muslims. So here are my two bits.

Sam Harris dismisses the idea that murderous violence of Muslim rioters should be ultimately blamed upon Western foreign policies (a euphemism for invasion, occupation, exploitation, support for violent overthrow of some dictators and democratically elected governments alike, and support for the violent entrenchment of other dictators among the Muslim states of the Middle East).

Sam Harris has countered that if it were not for the particular religious teachings of the Muslim religion then Muslims would not react with blood-lust against makers and facilitators of a satirical movie mocking their religion. Christians don’t react the same way when someone insults their faith. So it is clear that there is something more rotten in the state of Islam than in other religious faiths.

One of the problems (there are several) I have with this argument is that the Muslim violence we have been experiencing has not been with us until quite recent times. Violence and terrorism used to come from anarchists and secular political movements in Europe and the Middle East. The pioneer suicide bombers (in Lebanon in the 1980s) included Christians and Socialists (See Dying to Win by Richard Pape). The current wave of Muslim violence is not one of history’s constants but is a new thing.

Presumably Sam Harris’s complaint is that a more civilized religion would not see its adherents so seethe in response to whatever geopolitical shifts or Western policy intrusions into the Middle East have occurred in recent times, so that when an insulting work raises its head, devotees of more benign faiths would still manage to behave themselves.

But that just leads to the next question: Why do the majority of Muslims not react so violently but have instead been embarrassed by the violence and have loudly urged their brothers and sisters to simply ignore the ridicule? And another question: How do we explain the quiet of the Muslims for so long until quite recent times? Did no one ever publish a blasphemous or satirical cartoon or work until recent times? Or did Muslim communities generally ignore anything like that however offended they may have personally been? (more…)


What if the Gospels did cite their sources and identify their authors?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 1:00 am
English: Herodotus_from_Bodrum Български: Стат...

Herodotus_from_Bodrum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Would the Gospels be any more credible if their authors clearly left their names in them, along with a little biographical information clearly linking them to known historical persons, and if they at every point in their narrative informed readers of their sources for each set of sayings by Jesus and for each incident. Some sources they would explain were oral witnesses, some were official documents, maybe even some inscriptions that could be verified by any person in the region in their day.

Supposed a critic still dismissed them as fabricated tales. Would we be outraged that such a critic was completely biased against the Gospels and that she would never be so sceptical of secular writings with such an abundance of confirming testimony?

The answer ought to be that “it all depends”. It all depends on a critical analysis of all of that information. That would not be being biased against the Gospels. It would be treating the Gospels in exactly the same way scholars worth their salt treat their secular sources.

Take studies of Histories by Herodotus for instance. Herodotus has long been considered an essential source for our knowledge of the ancient world. By his own testimony he traveled widely, examining cultures first hand and gathering information from a wide range of sources, oral and written. Sure some of his tales are clearly fabulous, but why should we doubt that even those have some historical core in many cases?

1989 saw the English translation of Detlev Fehling‘s Herodotus and His ‘Sources’: Citation, Invention and Narrative Art, originally published in German in 1971. I will post from time to time on aspects of this book but for now let me outline his main arguments as summarized by Katherine Stott in Why Did They Write This Way? Reflections on References to Written Documents in the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Literature (2008): (more…)


McGrath as mcmuddled as ever over mythicism

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 5:14 pm

Dr James McGrath’s technique for slaying mythicism is to mount a snorting charger, grab a sword by the blade and don his full face helmet backwards so he cannot see, and then charge like hell in any direction his angry steed takes him.

He simply chooses not to read what mythicists say. He sees a windmill in the distance that he thinks looks like a silly monster and, without further ado, proceeds to blather some ignorant sophistry that completely ignores reality. But he has a cheering audience among that section of academia (theology) that scholars (e.g. Jerry Coyne and co) in real disciplines think is a bit of a joke.

I hasten to add that I don’t think that all biblical studies scholars are a joke by any means. I would not bother discussing and addressing so many of them and so many of their insightful ideas on this blog if I did. But when it comes to defending the historicity of Jesus — something Bart Ehrman suddenly realized none of his peers had ever thought to do before — well, they have a remarkable propensity for regurgitating circular arguments, question begging, and even outright falsehoods about what either they seem to think mythicists say or even what their own peers have published or both, usually both. (more…)

Jesus in Japan

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 7:22 am

and now for something completely different – – – –

Quixie has an interesting blogpost about the Jesus in Japan Parahistory and the historical Jesus

I’m too intrigued by the origins of this set of beliefs, rituals and relics to laugh in disdainful mockery. Though the belief is said to be very old, I wonder how its age can be tested and whether there might be reason to think it all started some time after the seventeenth century Portuguese missionaries. Not that they would have taught this myth, of course. But we do see the way myths do mutate into forms that meet very different needs and functions from their original parents: e.g. Mormonism, Dave Koresh and such on our side; but I’m thinking in particular of nineteenth century’s Hong Xuiquan of China who became the focus of the Taiping rebellion. He set up a “Heavenly Kingdom” declaring himself to be the brother of Jesus. His ideas were initiated after reading some missionary tracts from Seventh Day Adventists, I seem to recall.

Quixie has some interesting photos and a video of a dance-singing ritual with his article.

There’s another article on Jesus in Japan here: Jesus Christ was their ancestor.


A little quirk in the “historical” reconstruction of the Jesus story

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 9:53 pm
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Ed Parish Sanders

Historical Jesus scholars cannot deny the archaeological and literary evidence testifying to the grand economic importance of the major city of Sepphoris which was a mere one hour’s walk away from the “nobody-ever-heard-of-it” village of Nazareth. Why does such a major metropolis not once appear in the Gospels? Here is E. P. Sanders‘ answer:

Jesus was not an urbanite. The cities of Galilee — Sepphoris, Tiberias and Scythopolis (Hebrew, Beth-Shean) — do not figure in the accounts of his activities.  He doubtless knew Sepphoris, which was only a few miles from Nazareth, but he nevertheless seems to have regarded his mission as being best directed to the Jews in the villages and small towns of Galilee.  Nazareth was quite a small village.  It was in the hill country, away from the Sea of Galilee, but Jesus taught principally in the villages and towns on the sea. . . . . (p. 12. The Historical Figure of Jesus)

Okay, that’s fine. But it also raises a question. Why do the Gospels so consistently speak of Jesus attracting a massively large following from far and wide — Tyre and Sidon and places beyond the Jordan and “Edom”, for heaven’s sake, many days’ walk from Nazareth — yet fail to mention Sepphoris. Why is Capernaum cursed as if it were a great metropolis whose inhabitants had rejected him, but nary a word of Sepphoris? (more…)


A little biographical footnote

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 9:14 am

Sometimes it seems important to others who are hostile towards anyone who even offers a platform for a presentation of mythicist arguments to label them as extremists or weirdos, the evidence being that some of them once belonged to “an unusually weird religious background“.

For what it’s worth, in my own case, my formative religious years were in a relatively liberal (we were allowed to play cards and dance) Methodist church. I did opt to spend too many years in a religious cult but was eventually renounced by that cult. My sin was that I was always seeking to understand and question a little more deeply — no problem with that so long as it is kept private — and that this eventually led me to compile a bibliography that I posted (snail mail) to multiple scores of fellow cult members. That bibliography was a list of sources that members could turn to in order to learn “the other side of the story” about our cult.

You see, members are protected from information that helps them understand the full story of what they are a part of. I made it possible for many to locate that information if they so wished.

For my efforts I am proud to say that I was publicly denounced from pulpits throughout Australia as being “in the bond of Satan”. I am told that members were instructed to burn any letters from me or hand them in to the ministry unopened.

So what did I turn to? (more…)


Comments once again

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 12:22 pm

I hate having to do it, but I am placing all comments on moderation for the time being.


Comments on Vridar

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 12:33 pm

It’s great that this blog attracts a range of views in the comments on the posts, but I’d like to ask for a curbing of enthusiasm if you start to notice from the icon count in the right-hand column that you are starting to dominate the discussions.  Even I get embarrassed if, after catching up with comments I find I have my name and avatar appearing more than three times in the currently visible list.

And please do aim for conciseness in comments. I doubt many take the time to read lengthy comments anyway. But if you find you are compelled to write regular lengthy posts in the comment box then it would be more appropriate if you started your own blogs. It is not really appropriate to use another’s blog as a regular sounding board for your own lengthy views. From your own blog you can still comment upon posts and other comments here and link to them.

Lately several comments are going well beyond merely “commenting” on the thoughts on the posts or on others’ views.

I have had to place in the spam filter a few commenters who have tried to use this blog as a platform for regular evangelization or other forms of preaching, racist bile, and personal abuse. I recently removed one comment that included an inappropriate term of address for Stephanie Fisher. (I regret not noticing the same term used in several earlier comments.) A little joking and humorous cutting down arrogant and other nonsense I don’t mind, and calling a spade a spade is okay at times, too. But we can draw the line at using this blog as a public platform for sneering and insulting expressions.


Balinese dancer — informally

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 8:11 pm

Strolling though Sanur, Bali, last night I was lucky enough to catch a Balinese dancer informally, that is, not for public showing. – I originally said she was practising, but that makes it sound like work. It looked more like she was enjoying dancing for no other reason than that she loved it.


Richard Carrier–Thom Stark Debate the Dying Messiah

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 12:26 pm

Richard Carrier’s original post, The Dying Messiah (October 2011)

It is frequently claimed, even by experts in the field, that no Jews expected their messiah to be killed, that all of them expected a militarily triumphant übermensch. And therefore Christianity went totally off-book when it came up with the idea that their “failed” messiah was the “real” messiah. But this is actually demonstrably false. Some Jews did expect a dying messiah.

Thom Stark responded: The Death of Richard Carrier’s Dying Messiah, Part 1 (April 2012) and Part 2 (May 2012).

I’ll look at two major pieces of evidence Carrier provides for his thesis and show why they really come to naught, when examined properly.

Richard Carrier has since replied: The Dying Messiah Redux (June 2012)

Last year I made the case that the idea of a “dying messiah” was not wholly anathema to Jews and even already imagined by some before Christianity made a lot of hay out of the idea. I have since made small revisions to that article (The Dying Messiah) to make its claims and evidence clearer. This year, Thom Stark (a seminary graduate) wrote a response (The Death of Richard Carrier’s Dying Messiah). His analysis has changed my opinions on some matters, but ultimately it’s a fail.

I have drawn primarily on the arguments of Thomas L. Thompson to argue in older posts that a dying messiah was certainly not a foreign concept in the Jewish literature. The first messiah, anointed one, ever mentioned, for example, was a high priest whose death liberated certain exiles for inadvertent sin. My ongoing series of what the term “messiah” meant to Jews in Paul’s day — based on Matthew Novenson’s Christ among the Messiahs — will also make relevant contributions to this discussion.

Earl Doherty’s next installment delayed

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 1:00 am

Real life issues — health, work, family, personal — sometimes mean that even dedicated internet authors and assistant bloggers cannot keep up a regular schedule. Earl Doherty’s next installment will appear this coming Sunday/Monday (depending on your time zone).


Where to restart blogging?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 10:00 pm

It’s great to have Tim as a co-blogger — as well as recent posts from Earl and Roger — so my occasional absences should scarcely be noticed.

Since my last blogpost more books have come my way, and contrary to aspersions from Jesus Process ©™® intellects I really do read books, even whole ones, before bringing them here for discussion. One of them (Why Did They Write This Way?) discusses the literature of the Hebrew Bible and expresses some curious ideas such as the fundamental necessity for independent testimony to serve as controls to enable us to decide if our biblical accounts are historically reliable or not. I guess many historical Jesus scholars will be able to dismiss this logic and methodology because it is only relevant to the historical analysis of documents that have nothing to do with Christian origins.

Another newly published work (Christ Among the Messiahs) argues that Paul’s concept of “Messiah” or “Christ” needs to be understood as part of the broad mosaic of Jewish understandings of the term and not as something oddly mutated into an idiosyncratic cultic idea. I’m wondering what implications such an argument might have for our understanding of the emergence of Christianity. A third (The Quest for the Origin of John’s Gospel) explores the relationship of the Gospel of John with the Synoptic Gospels. And I want to catch up, also with the latest by Steven Pinker and David Brooks. And there are still scores of older ones I want to blog more about. But if I start with any of these I will miss the tedium of bothering with the three processed cheeses fun of huffing and casing and fishing with the flavour of last month. (more…)


Neil Godfrey’s response 2: @ Stephanie Fisher

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 3:30 pm
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Kakadu Escarpment

Kakadu Escarpment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am continuing here with another quick and easy response because real life distractions prevent me at this time from addressing Hoffmann’s and Casey’s posts against mythicism. I will address both when work and family situations permit. Right now I am relaxing after sharing with family experiences in Kakadu — plan to return tomorrow some time.

I will also probably say more about Stephanie’s criticism of Carrier’s Bayes’ Theorem, too. But for now my response is light and only concerns what she has to say about me.

Stephanie nowhere addresses my arguments about historical methodology. No-one reading her post would know that this is my main focus in any discussion of Christian origins — and that my focus is on the question of Christian origins rather than mythicism per se. (This latter focus is exactly what Hoffmann himself says he wants to see so one would think that I might be given a little credit for seeing eye-to-eye on such a basic point with “The Jesus Process” folk ;-) I will be addressing Hoffmann’s post as soon as circumstances permit.

R. Joseph Hoffmann appears to be wanting to distance his, Maurice Casey’s and Steph Fisher’s “rebuttals” of mythicism from what they appear to see as crass internet blogging for the ignorant masses — (they pour scorn on the internet and blogging community) — and has presented their posts on his internet blog as a corporate “The Jesus Process”, complete with (unnecessary but pretentious) formal copyright notices. (The “creative commons” license is presumably far too common for these elitists.)

Unfortunately for any hopes that “The Jesus Process” might be taken seriously by anyone but the Hoffmann (threesome?) choir, the hotheaded Stephanie Fisher has been included. Anyone who has observed Stephanie in action with contrary opinions knows she has nothing more to offer than hyperbolic indignation, personal attack, non sequiturs and a stubborn failure to demonstrate any ability to comprehend the views she believes she has to attack.

Misrepresenting Fredriksen?

Stephanie faults me for supposedly quoting Paula Fredriksen’s words out of context. Stephanie at no point presents and dissects my own arguments that relate to mythicist conclusions. Rather, she dregs out issues that bugged her when she was commenting — and finally trolling — on this Vridar blog in 2010 and picks up where she left off. She has learned nothing since, and has no more grasp of what she believed she was opposing back then. She writes:

Atheist blogger Neil Godfrey, an Australian ‘meta-data’ librarian (sic), thus plucked her brief comments completely out of context, and cited her in favour of the opposite interpretation.

Baloney. I did no such thing. And Stephanie does not even attempt to demonstrate how my quotation was “out of context” or how I cited her words for a view opposed their meaning. She does explain what Fredriksen’s context was, and that it was to highlight the Jewishness of Jesus’ heritage. Fredriksen is suggesting that the naming of Jesus’ brethren was an artifice to serve this ideological function. And I fully accept her explanation. I always have.

It was because of Fredriksen’s context — in exactly the way Stephanie herself repeats it — that I chose to refer to Fredriksen’s words. Fredriksen indicates that the names assigned to Jesus’ brothers are not “natural” but an artifice to support an ideological view of Jesus. So I wrote and quoted: (more…)


Neil Godfrey’s response 1 to Maurice Casey and Stephanie Fisher

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 3:36 pm

Oh the searing intellectual prowess that is being brought to bear against the mythicist case and mythicist bloggers such as myself! How can we withstand this pulverising assault? This shock and awe!

Steph and Maurice have found a post of mine from 2010 in which I explained that though I was a librarian I never saw or touched a book.

One of his statements followed on a shocking earthquake in New Zealand: ‘I’m a librarian, but I never see or touch a book’.[37] Perhaps this is why he seems incapable of gathering information available in books with any semblance of accuracy.  (Maurice Casey, Mythicism: A Story of Bias, Incompetence and Falsehood, accessed 23/5/2012 – I like the rhetorical touch Casey uses to introduce what he is about to say about me — See my P.S. at the end of this post for a response to the innuendo Casey has planted here.)

It is also apparent he does not read whole books, once claiming on his blog ‘I’m a librarian, but I never see or touch a book.’[43]  (Stephanie Fisher, An Exhibitions of Incompetence . . . accessed 23/5/2012)

Both footnotes point to my 2010 post, Oh Dear! What Half a Million Books Thrown on the Floor by an Earthquake Look Like .  .  .

The context surely explains that I was speaking about my job — that though I am a librarian I do not work with books but with digital resources — and not about my personal devotion to study and books. But such a distinction is apparently far too subtle for Steph and Maurice, blinded as they seem to be by a compelling need to find fault at any cost in one whose arguments they have diligently avoided addressing.

Maurice’s and Steph’s “exposure” of my supposedly willful bibliophobia is as meaningful as faulting a bank manager for saying he never sees or touches cash.

Or for chastising a computer programmer (who only works at a terminal all day) for saying he never sees or touches a computer.

If you’re asked while driving if you want to share a beer and you say No, do you expect to be understood as saying that you are a teetotaller?



John Loftus (Debunking Christianity) “is done”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 4:03 pm
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I’m probably the last person to find out about this but for anyone else who is a tail-ender John Loftus of the Debunking Christianity blog has called it quits. He writes in his last post:

I have no more desire to engage Christians. They are deluded, all of them. I have never been more convinced of this than I am now. I have better things to do. I spent 39+ years of my adult life on a delusion. If I add the years of my childhood that’s almost my entire life. Yet this is the only life I will ever have. It’s time to move on, or at a minimum take a very long hiatus. I just finished what may be my last book, on The Outsider Test for Faith, to be published by Prometheus Books early next year. How many times do I need to kick the dead horse of Christianity? I don’t think I need to say anything more. If what I have written isn’t good enough then nothing is good enough for some Christians. What I intend to do is turn this blog over to a few qualified people. I’ll still be a part of it and I suppose I’ll post something from time to time. But I see no reason to waste large chunks of my time on this delusion anymore.

And adds for clarification the following comment:

Thanks for everyone’s comments, especially the encouraging ones.

What I said may be harder to do than I think. I’ve been blogging every day for over six years. I’ll be around, just cutting drastically back for a while. It’s definitely been a love-hate relationship. (more…)


Robert Eisenman: Interview and Opportunity to Engage In Discussion

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 6:57 pm
Robert Eisenman

Robert Eisenman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A lengthy interview with Emeritus Professor Robert Eisenman has been posted on the JesusMysteries Discussion Forum. Anyone not familiar with the name can bring themselves up to speed on Robert Eisenman’s Wikipedia page.

Dennis Walker writes by way of introduction:

Clarice and I decided to ask Dead Sea Scroll scholar Robert Eisenman a few questions for the forum, and he generously responded. This is a long post, but I hope some who are familiar with his work over the years find it interesting. Eisenman isn’t quite a “mythicist,” but his work definitely put me on the road to questioning the existence of a historical Jesus, though ‘Jesus’ really hasn’t been his focus at all. Eisenman is now Emeritus Professor of Middle East Religions and Archaeology and Islamic Law at California State University, Long Beach.

I particularly liked Eisenman’s closing remarks:

Thank you for the opportunity of contributing to and participating in your web discussions. Keep up the good work, as they say, and don’t allow yourselves to be defeated or discouraged by any hostile ‘academicians’ or reputed ‘scholars’. These, in the end will always be the hardest either to influence or bring over to the kind of thinking you represent since they have the most to lose by either acknowledging or entertaining it, largely because they would be seen as somewhat ridiculous by their peers if they were to deny the whole thrust of their previous academic work and training.

We must leave them like this, but should not expect any different from them or be discouraged in any way by them. You are the final judge of these things and you have sufficient information and data at your fingertips to make your own final, intelligent, and incisive judgments which will hopefully be full of insight.

(My own highlighting in both quotations.)

It appears that Professor Eisenman will be available in the coming weeks to respond to any feedback and questions any of us may like to raise with him.

This looks like a very rare opportunity not to be let go. (And you don’t have to pay to enter a private forum, either.)

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1950s Scholarship on the Historicity of Jesus – Vardis Fisher’s summary

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 9:04 pm
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American novelist Vardis Fisher (it’s not coincidental that the name of this blog is a partial acronym of this name, and an “autobiographical” character in one of his novels) included at the back of his novel Jesus Came Again: A Parable, a discussion of the scholarly views of his day on the historicity of Jesus.

He writes, in 1956 (with my formatting):

Was Jesus of Nazareth a historic person? We do not know, and unless documents turn up of which we have no knowledge we cannot hope ever to know.

Montefoire . . . says petulantly: “If eccentric scholars like to argue that Jesus never existed, let them do so.”

And Klausner, another Jew, says it is “unreasonable to question” it.

But says Schmiedel: “the view that Jesus never really lived has gained in ever-growing number of supporters. It is no use to ignore it, or to frame resolutions against it.”

Weigell: “Many of the most erudite critics are convinced that no such person ever lived.”

Among those so convinced [that no such person ever lived], some of them internationally known scholars, are (more…)


Scientific Journal Publishes Research on Moses’ Stuttering

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 4:07 pm

I really thought this was an April Fools joke. For the benefit of anyone who is not a regular visitor to Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True blog this is a must read: Did Moses Stutter? A Scientific Investigation.

Looks like those theologian bible scholars are paving the way with their astonishingly progressive research tools and now even the scientific community owes them a debt in new advances in historical methodology. They have shown how historical research into biblical characters can even open up the way to diagnosing Moses’ speech difficulties and little tricks he used — by means of staff and song — to control them.

(I wonder if Dr McGrath will be embarrassed or proud.)


Comments and moderation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Godfrey @ 6:15 pm

Just a reminder about my approach to “comments and moderation”: It’s in the right hand margin beneath the “About Vridar” notice.

I recall a time when I belonged to a religious entity some years back and was involved in a letter-box drop activity. Our aim was to blanket a city with our educational flyers. To us they were always “educational literature”, never religious tracts at all. Sorry, but I see things differently nowadays. I like to think my blog has an educational sharing thrust. Others with alternative curricula are welcome to post their course content in other spaces.


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